How Much Should I Read a Day?
by Joe Walters
“How much should I read a day?” is a complicated question.
You have likely heard advice from teachers, parents, librarians, doctors, and know-it-alls over the years telling you that you should spend at least [x amount of time] reading per day.
I’ve heard so many different opinions on this over my lifetime: 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, even 2 from my grade school librarian back when I was a young tike with a basketball to shoot.
And now, a collection of years later, I’m a person who reads, reviews, and works with books for a living. I breathe this stuff. I want everybody to read more so that we can talk about the best books and put our trust in brilliant authors and learn things only available inside of covers.
But it’s not always easy to make the time to read. We have so many things to occupy ourselves nowadays, and they don’t always require us to work hard for the gratification.
And yet, this question still comes up: How much should I read a day?
So here’s my answer:
What do you want out of this?
If you are just trying to get smarter, I’ve got good news for you. Read one chapter in a nonfiction book about a subject you are not yet proficient in.
Voila: you’re smarter.
If you read more than one chapter, you’re smarter again and then again and then again.
If you are trying to read [x minutes per day] because you want to build a reading habit, then I like where your head is at! But don’t get caught up in the specific timeframe that your teacher recommended in their minutes-per-day spiel.
Your teacher is not you; you are the only one who can know how much time you have to read.
As long as you read every day, no matter if it’s for five minutes, ten minutes, an hour, or more, you are following through on your habit-building exercise to read more. Just keep doing it, and if you miss a day or two, do not call it a failure and give up. Recognize that all you can do is start it again. And actually do it.
One of my favorite ways to read every day is…
Reading multiple books at a time.
I know this might sound like something of a head-scratcher for all you wanna-start-reading-more friends, but it’s more about practicality than you’d think.
Sometimes you don’t want to read the book you’re reading or you genuinely cannot read it at this moment.
I, for one, don’t want to open a literary novel with big meaty chapters while my almost-toddler is dancing and chanting Bob Marley as loud as she can. But she is fairly occupied, so I believe this is a pocket of time I could read instead of scrolling the internet.
It’s times like these when I like to read nonfiction books (nature reading is my lifeblood lately) because if/when I have to put the book down, I can rest easy knowing that I stopped at or very near the large subheading about the way trees have babies.
Another way to read every day is to read books in different formats.
I do a ton of dishes, so I’ve become an audiobook fanatic. Sometimes I want to listen to music when scrubbing plates, and sometimes I want it to be a podcast about how bad/amazing the Sixers are. But a lot of the time, I want to listen to a book.
This might be just me in the current body I’m in and world I’m in, but again, I am choosing nonfiction for a lot of my audiobook listens. Nature books are obvious favorites for me here, but I also enjoy audiobooks about music like They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us and ones on art & writing like Craft in the Real World.
eReaders have really increased my reading numbers too. I think reading before bed is the most wonderful way in the world to fall asleep, and it works wonders for me in actually zonking out.
Back when I was scrolling my phone too much, I could be using my decompress time before bed for entirely too long and getting swirled around the YouTube recommendations for more prank videos than you can count. Now, I’m stuck on my Kindle. I like that.
I also like it because I can read it in public without attracting too much attention. Most of the time people just think I’m on my phone, but really I’m burrowing between the rhythmic lines of a poetry collection from Ocean Vuong or Jericho Brown.
By reading different books at the same time and reading them in different formats, you are making it more convenient for you to read. This is a huge habit-building technique that you can use to hit your goal of how much you should read in a day.
A very serious readerly FAQ
Should you set yearly reading goals?
I think it’s good to set reading goals but not definitely not as any sort of schedule. I choose them for fun, and maybe you should too. The most important thing in my eyes is that you actively choose reading often–not to hit x books in y amount of hours but to build and develop your reading habit.
How much should you read in a day? (If I HAVE to choose)
Thirty minutes. Split it up or conquer it all at once. If you shoot for this, you’ll give yourself a chance to finish full chapters of many books, giving you a sense of completion each time. That feeling of accomplishment helps keep you going. But also, adjust if it’s too much! Just keep reading.
How much should I read a day in order to finish this three-hundred page book?
Each reader is different, each book is different, each moment you peek inside is different. Who knows how long it will take you to read this specific book.
But if you really, really have to finish a three-hundred page book in a short amount of time, just know that you can do it anywhere between 8 and, say, 20 hours. What you’ll notice about both of these is that they are within a day. You can absolutely read a 300-page book today, even if you are a slow reader. Just go with one word after another, and you’ll get there. There are also a number of fast reading strategies you could implement if you’re really in a crunch.
If I read multiple books at a time, how will I ever finish one?
Slowly! But surely, if you keep resetting the day’s goal over and over and over.
How can I read more in loud spaces?
This is one that used to trip me up a lot. It always seems romantic and sweet to read your book in that cool coffee shop down the street, but if it’s poppin’ in there, you could end up reading the same paragraph over and over.
One of my favorite tricks for this is…to keep trying. Mouth the words as you read so you focus extra specifically on what you’re doing rather than what the randoms are saying. It’s going to be hardest early on, but the more you force yourself to do it, the better you’ll become.
Also, it could be the book’s fault! Try out something a little easier in the beginning. You can be a reader in a loud space, I know you can. (If you want to bring earbuds, that can help too).
Does reading articles on my phone/tablet/laptop count as reading?
Absolutely! I wouldn’t count it on your end of the year reading chart, but if you’re reading, you’re reading. That’s one of the big reasons why I believe that you can increase your book-count this year. You’re most likely reading already.
Can I throw myself a party when I finish reading a book after all the mini-hours I put in trying to finish it?
My favorite way to celebrate finishing a book, however simple it is, is to write the title down on my “Books Finished 2023” poster-thing I have hanging in my office. It’s a surreal type of excitement to actually add to the list after all of your quiet moments sitting there reading.
Happy reading, all! How much do you want to read per day?
About the Author
Joe Walters is the founder and editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review. He has been a book marketer for Sunbury Press, Paper Raven Books, and Inkwater Press. When he’s not doing editorial, promoting, or reviewing work, he’s working on his novel and trusting the process. Find him @joewalters13 on Twitter.
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